Just the other day here at Wolfe Law Group, I had to do so research for a client on the licensing rules for contractors. I deal with these rules daily but this client’s issue helped to refresh me. This got me thinking that many contractors and hiring parties do not necessarily know the rules that govern contractors of all types. Here in Louisiana, contractor licensing law is governed by the State Licensing Board for Contractors (SLBC). The actual statues are codified in La R.S. 37:2150 et seq.
Today’s post focuses in on a classification called Home Improvement Contracting. Home Improvement Contractors (La R.S. 37:2175.1 et seq) need to have a “certificate” (not a full license) with the SLBC to perform any home improvement contracting services in excess of $7,500 but below $75,000. These contracts need to be in writing and include: 1) full agreement between owner and contractor, 2) full name, address and registration number of the contractor, 3) detailed list of work and materials, 4) total to be paid & how the costs will be paid, and 5) finally signatures of all parties. Finally the owner needs a copy of the contract documents before any work can start. See La R.S. 37:2175.1 for complete list.
This seems like a very commonsensical list, but you will be surprise how many parties get this wrong and/or miss out on critical elements. The contract will not be deemed invalid if an aspect is missing but the rules need to be followed.
Residential contractors need to be registered with the SLBC. The contractor needs to make a written application with the SLBC, under oath. The application needs to include the following information in addition to proof of workers compensation insurance:
(B)(1) The applicant’s name, home address, business address, and social security number.
(2) The names and addresses of any and all owners, partners, or trustees of the applicant including, in case of corporate entities, the names and addresses of any and all officers, directors, and principal shareholders. This Section shall not apply to publicly traded companies.
(3) A statement whether the applicant has ever been previously registered in the state as a home improvement contractor, under what other names he was previously registered, whether there have been previous judgments or arbitration awards against him, and whether his registration has ever been suspended or revoked.
The requirements for granting this certification are more relaxed than the normal contractors license but there are grounds for denial and/or revocation.
If contractors are performing projects that fall within the $7,500-$75,000 window on residential improvements and they get caught for not being registered or not having the proper certification there are penalties. Penalties include administrative costs for hearings and a maximum of 25% of the contract price for the violating party. This could essentially mean thousands of dollars in addition to any causes of action that the homeowner may have against the violating contractor.
Finally, and most importantly for contractors, it is easy to get this certification. If a contractor is not properly licensed to be a home improvement contractor, and that contractor is not paid on the home improvement project, that contractor is legally prohibited from filing a lien on the project! (See La R.S. 37:2175.6) This is very important if you are a contractor trying to get paid. The homeowner can rip you off with very little recourse.
Bottom line: if you are a contractor who deals in home improvement, it is easy to get your home improvement license with the state. It will give you protections and keep you legal. Further, if you are a homeowner and know or suspect your contractor is not properly licensed, you have the SLBC to help protect you and penalize the offending contractor. I help contractors get this registration and I’ve also helped homeowners turn in violating contractors.